Allred & Broderick – Find the Ways
Erased Tapes – 2017
Composer and songwriter Peter Broderick was responsible for not one but two of 2016’s finest releases: the John Cage-inspired full-length Partners and the piano-centric live EP Grunewald. David Allred’s output last year was a little further under the radar, but no less impressive, and even more prolific. His Bandcamp page saw no less than three releases: a solo album, a seven track EP and a collaborative effort with Greg Eldridge (which also featured Broderick). Sometimes musicians are natural collaborators, and this would seem to be the case with Allred and Broderick. They share a talent for reflective minimalism that straddles the boundary between ageless folk music and modern composition, and an intuitive approach that allows space for humour and seriousness to coexist.
Find The Ways is their first album as a duo, but judging by the quality of the songs and the ease with which they accomplish their shared musical goals, you’d think that they’ve been at it for years. The minimal perspective that has served them both so well is not abandoned: it’s just Broderick’s violin, Allred’s upright bass and the two voices taking it in turns. The songs themselves are spare, sometimes to the point of rawness, and the music plays with repetition and slight variation in a way that feels almost improvisational. Opening song Living On A Wire is the record’s most openly collaborative piece, a duet with lyrics that resemble a haiku or a devotional chant, while Broderick’s violin passages are almost classical, creating their own little free-standing vignettes. The violins in The Wise One, on the other hand, are more stridently modernistic, not unlike John Cale’s viola in the Velvet Underground, but with the rest of the band’s clamour stripped away. The result is meditative, gnomic and somehow stirring.
Two Otters is Broderick’s instrumental piece, composed some time ago and resurrected specifically with Allred’s bass in mind. Neo-classical and strangely experimental by turns, it pulls off a neat musical trick that many composers would struggle to accomplish over a whole album’s worth of material. The fact that Broderick wrote it aged just 17 is even more impressive. It is followed by another longer, more thoughtful song: Allred’s Hey Stranger, a haunting examination of his real-life friendship with a missing person, and the emotional impact a disappearance can have on family and friends.
Four Aspens is a brief mock-up of a string quartet, which wears its cleverness lightly, Allred’s The Ways is a beautiful and surprising duet, sung entirely unaccompanied, that contains a rare message of hope, and Hesitation is another old song of Broderick’s in which Allred’s bass provides a drone while the lyrics again offer up a wise message with haiku-like simplicity. Hesitation melds seamlessly into Allred’s I’m Not Crazy, only this time the violin provides the background drone.
On Ode To Angelica Broderick indulges his love for botany and in doing so creates a simple and evocative violin study, while the closing track, Robert, Please, is a subtle, funny exploration of creativity and creative block with a loping bassline that imparts a surprising jazziness.
Find The Ways is a genuinely original album, but to its credit, it never feels forced. It has an organic, almost off-the-cuff quality that belies the mathematical rigour of much of the modernist composition that inspired it. It is rare for an album to successfully bridge the gap between the contemporary and the antiquated, but Allred and Broderick do it so well that you don’t even notice the joins.
Out Now on Erased Tapes
Allred & Broderick also feature in Folk Radio UK’s latest mix in their Lost in Transmission Series. Listen to Lost in Transmission No. 27 here.